LAWRENCEVILLE - Wearing a glittering ensemble in a shade complementary to her gray hair, Evelyn Maddox said she almost fell out of her chair Friday after being named Ms. Life Care.
One of her 21 grandchildren has already claimed the crown for which she competed for five years, but the 85-year-old Maddox said she can't have it quite yet.
"I'm going to keep it as long as I live," she said. "I'm so surprised, I just don't believe it. I never have won much."
Twice, Maddox has been the runner-up in the nine-year-old competition. She won the 2008 title from 92-year-old Frances Harrell after telling the panel of judges that if she won $1 million, she would distribute it among her eight children, her church and hospitals researching children's diseases.
Frances Spruce, 84, was the runner up.
Maddox, from Buford, got married in a triple wedding when she was 16. She is the mail lady at the nursing home and helped decorate the main dining room, converted into an auditorium for the pageant, with posters and thousands of silver stars.
All seven contestants wore glittering dresses and were escorted by North Gwinnett High School ROTC members in a scene reminiscent of a high school prom.
The competition is a way to give residents something to look forward to, activities director Sherry Forester said, and allows the community to participate in residents' lives. Contestants are nominated by friends and family, and more than 230 attended the event.
"They dream about it," she said of the competitors. "These women are glowing."
Jeff Maddox, the winner's youngest son, said he has watched his mother compete each year, but that seeing her win definitely made the pageant more exciting. Nearly 20 of Maddox's relatives came to watch her be crowned.
Maddox said she was thrilled to finally take the top title.
"It took a long time, didn't it?" she said. "I guess it's just my turn."